LIFE can be tough running a freehold pub with so much competition around from chain bars and supermarkets.

But the King’s Head in Hursley is proving it is an exception to the rule.

The pub was taken over by local farmers and businessmen a few years ago who appointed Jimmy Hajiantoni to run it 14 months ago.

Mr Hajiantoni said: “The pub was taken over by five locals to stop it falling into the clutches of a chain and keep it for the locals, and they approached me and asked if I would take it on.

“I have been involved in catering for 35 years and used to run restaurants in Southampton but this is my first experience of pubs. We have invested £100,000 in refurbishing the place and so far it’s going very well indeed. Since I have taken over our turnover has gone up 40 per cent.

“Perhaps the place was not being properly exploited beforehand but it’s a great pub in a great location. People come to try it out, they come and see if they like it and then they will come back.”

Mr Hajiantoni said he wasn’t too worried about competition from supermarkets or other local pubs, like The Dolphin, also in Hursley.

He said: “We are more worried about competition from other pubs than supermarkets, but to be honest The Dolphin has its own market and we have ours. We just need to ensure standards are kept higher than they have ever been before.”

The pub focuses on locally-brewed ales and fresh produce, with a menu that changes on a regular basis.

Mr Hajiantoni said: “We have set menus for lunch, we do breakfast and lunch when there are shoots around here and we have a skittle alley which is very, very popular.

We try to make sure it is a friendly atmosphere and my motto is making the place a home away from home.”

The King’s Head also has eight rooms with occupancy at around 70 per cent.

Clubs are welcome to hold meetings at the pub and it also hosts live music every month.